Friday, January 28, 2011

A Generation Fading

Paula R. Stern
A Soldier's Mother
28 January '11

We got a call two days ago that my husband's aunt had passed away in Canada. Her children would be flying to Israel briefly to bury her here in Jerusalem. We would meet them near a major intersection in Jerusalem and drive together in a chain of cars to the cemetery on the Mount of Olives, there to part with a much loved aunt.

The Mount of Olives is an ancient cemetery, often desecrated by local Arabs. From 1948 - 1967, the Jordanians held this area. When it was reunited in 1967 with the rest of Jerusalem, Israelis and Jews the world over were horrified to find that the Arabs had broken uncountable numbers of tombstones, turned them into a latrine, and rubble. What harm these centuries of dead Jews had done to the Jordanians and local Arab population is beyond understanding but they were an affront to Islam, a testimony to our historical ties to this land and so were smashed, broken, and damaged beyond repair.

Slowly, for the last 40 years, we have been reclaiming, fixing, repairing new damage of ongoing vandalism and hatred, and burying our dead there once again. This was where our cousins chose to bury their father last year; where we came again in great sadness to now bury their mother. We saw many Arab youth working in the cemetery as we were leaving. They were laughing and playing tag as others worked with cement to repair some of the graves. There was no supervision; no one watching over them. Why? I asked Elie. It was not a respectful way to work in a cemetery in such an important place, but it was clearly fro these Arab laborers, just a day's work...and an unsupervised one at that.

"They break the stones at night," Elie said, "and then we pay them to fix them." And in the newly patched cement on some of the sides of the graves, I saw Arabic writing; even in this, there is disrespect. A marking of what is ours to somehow claim it as theirs. This too, goes without notice, apparently.

(Read full "A Generation Fading")

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